Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"Lone Survivor": Moderation indeed is for cowards

When war machine character Shane Patton (Alexander Ludwig) pronounces “Moderation is for cowards”, the guys in a Navy Seals Unit are in the middle of their “unit cohesion bonding”, but of course the phrase reminds me of what used to be expected of all young men a half-century ago, when we had a military draft, which privileged men could get out of.  And in “Lone Survivor”, there is plenty of activity that we at least got exposed to in 1968 in Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, SC, like bayonet and hand-to-hand.  This all happens in those gruesome firefights on the piney slopes of an Afghanistan (actually New Mexico, probably near Taos and the Lama Foundation) ridge starting 40 minutes into this two hour movie.  In my own Basic Training, a couple of drill sergeants actually got bloody noses and mouths in the hand-to-hand.  (Yes, you can think about the “health” implications if you want.)  A movie like this reminds me of why so much was made of “gender responsibility” when I was growing up.
The only survivor will of course be Marcus Luttrell, played by Marky Mark Wahlberg, who helped produce the movie (directed by Peter Berg). It’s Luttrell’s book that forms the basis of the movie, an account of a 2005 incident where, as “Operation Red Wing”, a Navy Seal team was dispensed to assassinate Taliban leader Ahmad Shahd. 
The film starts with Luttrell being defibrillated on a Navy chopper, and then flashes back to tell the story of the past three days.  The last portion, before his rescue, where he is protected by a Pashtun tribe that honors its religious tradition of “radical hospitality”, is quite touching.  And Luttrell’s earlier decision to stick to his own moral compass and not take the life of a teenager turns out to help save him.  Good karma.
The film becomes relentless with the graphic battlefield violence and wounds (enough, along with the street language, to earn an “R”).   I don’t think Luttrell could really have walked on a leg with a compound thigh femur fracture as shown in that last portion. This is an action film, and not as cerebral (despite the one moral discussion) as “Zero Dark Thirty” (Jan. 11, 2013).
The official site from Universal is here.  The production company Emmett Furla certainly has an interesting trademark with its mag-lev train. It’s interesting that the film wasn’t released until 2014, and did not try to get into the awards season.
There’s an impressive cast, including Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, and Eric Bana as the lively  Commander Kristensen, who will go down himself when his chopper is shot down.   

I saw this film at the Angelika Mosaic before a light Monday night crowd. 

There was a 3-minute short film from GE Focus Forward, "Wild Life in Downtown L.A." with artist Zac Geoffray/ and Eric Cook.
Wikipedia attribution link for Rio Grande near Taos (my most recent visit, 1984, for “spring work camp” at Lama).

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